An Auckland woman's encounter with a pod of orcas was a "dream come true" since forming aspirations of becoming a marine biologist as a little girl.
Julie Chandelier and Scott Sinton began kayaking at Browns Bay with hopes of spotting killer whales, when they finished four hours later the couple were in Devonport.
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"She's [Ms Chandelier] wanted to see them her whole life," Mr Sinton told Newshub.
"Once the adrenaline settled she kind of lost it emotionally."
Ms Chandelier admitted she was overwhelmed once they made it back to dry land.
"After hours of paddling, once on shore, I burst into tears as it was a dream come true.
"I couldn't believe what had just happened to us."
Mr Sinton said the pair maintained the recommended distances between the mammals but were approached several times.
"It was definitely the most inquisitive that I've seen them behave," he said.
"The mother and calf were extremely interested in our kayak, they even had a play with our rudder and the mum gave us a couple of friendly pushes.
"They definitely had a good look at us, proper eye contact and everything. It's hard to deny their level of intelligence.
Rob Johnson was in the area and snapped a picture of the couple as the whales got closer.
Dana Sheehan was also watching from a nearby cliff and confirmed the pair had been trying to give the orcas space, explaining they were "so lucky" to come so close.
Mr Sinton wants others to know the importance of safely interacting with sea life.
"Not a lot of people know the rules when interacting with marine mammals, so I'd like to educate as many people as possible," he said.
"Our dream is to work alongside conservation groups to create imagery which will inspire us all to further protect New Zealand's marine ecosystems."
According to the Department of Conservation, there should be at least a 50m distance from any whale or orca and at least 200m from any baleen/sperm whale with a calf.
It recommends against swimming with whales or orca as well as dolphin pods containing juveniles.
If you see orca while out in the water:
- Do not swim within 100m of a killer whale/orca
- Your vessel should not be within 50m of a killer whale
- There should be no more than three vessels within 300m of any marine mammal, additional vessels may watch from 300m.
- Your vessel should approach orca from behind and to the side
- Do not circle them, obstruct their path or cut through any group
- Operate your boat slowly and quietly at 'no wake' speed when within 300 m of a killer whale
- Avoid sudden noises that could startle the animals